Superstars Zhang and Hashimoto managing expectations ahead of all-around showdown

Daiki Hashimoto and Zhang Boheng promise to deliver one of the showdown of the World Gymnastics Championships
Daiki Hashimoto and Zhang Boheng promise to deliver one of the showdown of the World Gymnastics Championships

By James Toney

Zhang Boheng and Daiki Hashimoto are doing a good job of managing expectations ahead of their eagerly-awaited showdown at the World Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool.

Japanese Olympic all-around champion Hashimoto claimed a gold medal would 'difficult' after podium training while Zhang - who became the fifth Chinese gymnast to win the men's all-around world title 12 months ago - seemed equally downbeat after training on Saturday.

Asked how podium training went, the 22-year-old admitted he was taking time to acclimatise.

“Training was not so good," he said. "I’m still in the process of adapting to everything here, including the time difference and everything in the arena. I hope to perform better in qualifications.

“Of course, I feel the pressure because this time I am not only doing it for myself but for team. That’s why it is important for me to deliver.

“My wrist is not feeling good and it might affect my performance a little bit. But I am relatively optimistic about it. I will work harder to get used to it and do my best.”

Zhang's priority before next Friday's all-around final is Wednesday's team event, the first global competition since the Tokyo Olympics, where Japan took silver and China bronze, behind Russian gymnasts absent from Liverpool.

“Japan always produces good all-around gymnasts. Recently they have the newbie, Hashimoto, who has exceptional form," added Zhang.

“That’s why we need to learn from experience to beat them. I hope we can perform better in competition.

“We have only been able to see Great Britain and I think they are quite strong. We haven’t had a chance to see the other teams yet. We will have to wait until after qualifications to have the big picture.”

It's just a year since Zhang defeated Hashimoto by just 0.017 points to win his maiden world title in Kitakyushu - the perfect response to Chinese selectors who had left him out their Olympic team.

Their showdown was the highlight of the championships, going down to the final apparatus, with international newcomer Zhang top-scoring on the floor, vault and parallel bars.

Like Zhang, Hashimoto claims to be suffering from a wrist complaint after falling twice on the pommel in training this week and looking far from fluent on the parallel bars.

“I want to get the team gold medal and the all-around gold. I’m a little bit concerned about it, but I just want to focus on what I can do," he said.

“Both my wrists are overworked because I practised too much.

“My body is in pain, but I decided to compete. It’s difficult, I can’t control my body, so to get the gold medal will be difficult.”

The World Gymnastics Championships Liverpool 2022 will be one of the largest international sporting events ever to be held in the city. Over 500 gymnasts from more than 70 countries will compete at the M&S Bank Arena from 29 October to 6 November 2022. Tickets are available at www.2022worldgymnastics.com/tickets.